Liang Sicheng was a Chinese architect and scholar, often known as the father of modern Chinese architecture. His wife was the architect and poet Lin Huiyin. Liang authored the first modern history on Chinese architecture, and he was the founder of the Architecture Department of Northeastern University in 1928 and Tsinghua University in 1946. He was the Chinese representative of the Design Board which designed the United Nations headquarters in New York City. He, along with wife Lin Huiyin, Mo Zongjiang, and Ji Yutang, discovered and analyzed the first and second oldest timber structures still standing in China, located at Nanchan Temple and Foguang Temple at Mount Wutai.
He is recognized as the “Father of Modern Chinese Architecture”. Princeton University, which awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 1947, issued a statement praising him as “a creative architect who has also been a teacher of architectural history, a pioneer in historical research and exploration in Chinese architecture and planning, and a leader in the restoration and preservation of the priceless monuments of his country.”
The National Style
When Liang was later given the responsibility to develop a national style of architecture by the Communist Party of China, his intention was to pass on the essence of Chinese architecture. This specific essence, was considered to be the large roof, the temple-style concave curved roofs and overhanging eaves to denote their Chinese origin. Though he was severely criticized for this during political campaigns, a wave of the National Style had already spread out and even continued to be influential after one or two decades. Famous examples include the China Fine Arts Gallery (1959), the National Library of China (1987), and Beijing west railway station (1996), which are all typical of their large roofs.
Urban planning of Beijing
Liang's biggest ambition was to preserve old Beijing, which had served as the capital city of the Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, in its entirety. Under the Communist government, he was named Vice-Director of the Beijing City Planning Commission. In his early recommendations to transform Beijing into the new national capital, he insisted that the city should be a political and cultural center, not an industrial zone. He later put forward a proposal that a new administrative center for government buildings with a north-south axis be established west of the Forbidden City, a significant distance from the ancient Inner City. In 1950, after he was committed as the vice director in Beijing City Planning Committee. Liang and another planner Chen Zhanxiang worked together for the new government and eventually submitted a report “Suggestions on the location of central government district”, which is referred as the "Liang-Chen Proposal" in the Chinese architectural field. In this proposal, Liang Sicheng and Chen Zhanxiang proposed different locations for the city center to the west of the Forbidden City, east of Gongzhufen and west of Yuetan. They listed their arguments in the "Suggestions on the location of central government district", which could also be seen in the letter Liang wrote to the Prime Minister of China Zhou Enlai at that time. Briefly, they demonstrated 5 key focus aspects on the new planning proposal of Beijing.
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